Here is some sober reading for Sunday excerpted from the 2011 Grand Jury Report. It picks up where the last installment left off. I also highly recommend Philadelphia Magazine’s July cover story, “Catholics in Crisis.”
These are sordid, shocking acts. There was at least one person, though, who could not have been the least bit surprised by what happened to Billy and Mark. Monsignor William Lynn was the Secretary for Clergy under Cardinal Bevilacqua. In that position, he acted as the personnel director for priests. It was his job to review all reports of abuse, to recommend action, and to monitor the abuser’s future conduct.
Before Billy was raped – four years before – Monsignor Lynn learned that one of Billy’s assailants had previously “wrestled,” “tickled,” and groped another boy during an “overnight.” The priest in question was Father Edward Avery. Avery took the boy to his bed on at least two other occasions and again fondled his genitals. After the abuse was reported, Avery was secretly sent to a sexual offender program run by the Archdiocese. While he was there, Monsignor Lynn told parishioners to disregard any untoward reports concerning Avery’s absence as mere “rumors,” and reassured them that Lynn knew of nothing but compliments about their pastor.
Avery was discharged from the sex offender program on condition that he have no further contact with adolescents. An “aftercare” team was supposedly set up to watch him. Monsignor Lynn, however, did not send Father Avery far away from boys. Quite the opposite: he recommended an assignment at a parish with a school. Cardinal Bevilacqua then assigned Avery to St. Jerome – the school where Avery later found, and raped, Billy. The “aftercare” team was a farce: Monsignor Lynn was repeatedly advised that the team wasn’t meeting. He didn’t do anything about it. In fact, he never even told St. Jerome School that he had just sent them a child abuser.
Nor were St. Jerome students the only children at risk from Father Avery. During this period, the Archdiocese actually allowed Avery to “adopt” six young Hmong children. Monsignor Lynn knew about the Hmong “adoption”; he also knew that Avery’s sex offense program had specifically prohibited such conduct. He never did a thing to stop it.
Indeed the Archdiocese did not get around to removing Avery from ministry until 2003, just three months after the release of the prior grand jury report – but eleven years after the first documented abuse reports, and seven years after the rape of Billy. Does anyone really believe there were no others?
As with Father Avery, so it is with Father Brennan, the priest who raped Mark: Monsignor Lynn acted as if his job was to protect the abuser, never the abused. In the years before the assault on Mark, the Archdiocese received repeated complaints about Brennan’s “unhealthy” relationships with boys at the parochial school to which Cardinal Bevilacqua had assigned him. One of the boys even moved into Brennan’s apartment. When Brennan grew concerned that word about his guest was leaking out, he went to Monsignor Lynn – who promptly assured him that the report was just a “rumor” that would never be allowed into Brennan’s file.
That same summer, Brennan arranged for his sleepover with Mark, and sodomized him. In the years that followed, Brennan was cycled through a variety of assignments, without any restrictions on contact with minors. In one of these posts, he actually crossed paths with Mark again. Brennan, unbowed, commanded the boy to come to him. He was thwarted not because of any action by Monsignor Lynn or the Archdiocese, but only because this time Mark was not too afraid to escape.
Avery and Brennan were hardly the only two priests whom Monsignor Lynn so favored. The prior grand jury report is full of similar accounts. We summarize several of them below, in the main body of this report. Those cases, however, were long before Billy’s and Mark’s, and the prior grand jury was unable to document any repeat assaults by those particular abusers that resulted from Lynn’s institutional laxness. Not so this time. There is no doubt that Monsignor Lynn’s refusal to curb Avery and Brennan led directly to the rape of Billy and Mark. We therefore charge William Lynn with the crime of endangering the welfare of a child, a felony of the third degree.
That leaves us with a difficult dilemma: Cardinal Bevilacqua. The Cardinal’s top lawyer appeared before the grand jury and testified that the Cardinal, at 87, suffers from dementia and cancer. We are not entirely sure what to believe on that point. (Editor’s note: My sources indicate that while Cardinal Bevilacqua’s physical health has been fragile, his mind has been quite intact.) We do know, however, that over the years Cardinal Bevilacqua was kept closely advised of Monsignor Lynn’s activities, and personally authorized many of them. On the other hand, we do not have good evidence about the Cardinal’s actions specifically as to Father Avery and Father Brennan, the two priests whose treatment forms the basis for the endangering charge against Lynn. The documents clearly show what Lynn knew in these two cases and what he did or didn’t do about it. But that direct link is lacking as to Cardinal Bevilacqua. On balance, we cannot conclude that a successful prosecution can be brought against the Cardinal – at least for the moment. New reports of abuse continue to come in.” Read more here.